Nesta H. Webster’s previous studies in the French Revolution have made her an unquestioned authority on the period; but she has not hitherto devoted special attention to elucidating the personal characters of the unfortunate Louis XVI and his tragic queen. The present work is designed to rectify that omission. While complete in itself, it is confined to history before the revolution. The study will be concluded in a separate volume to be published at a later date. [The second part, subtitled “During the Revolution,” is available here.]
The story of Marie Antoinette is incomprehensible and meaningless without a study of the character of her husband, who has been somewhat strangely neglected by Royalist biographers and historians of all schools. Mrs. Webster is able to throw a great deal of light on the position in which Louis was placed at the time of his accession, the difficulties which he surmounted and failed to surmount, and the mingled strength and weakness of his personality.
Marie Antoinette is a more complex character. Mrs. Webster follows her career in close detail from its brilliant opening at Versailles, and by doing so she illuminates many matters which have hitherto been obscure. At the same time she refutes the recent aspersions made on her character such as the alleged Fersen liaison, giving her reasons at length for the conclusion that the friendship between the two was a perfectly innocent one.
Mrs. Webster’s biography is so complete and thorough that it seems bound to supersede the works of previous writers, and to rank as the standard account of the long-drawn-out tragedy of the ancien régime in France.